Today in 1971, 48 years ago RFC-287 was published revising the Mail Box Protocol so that you can send messages to a mailbox at a different institution.

The potential utility for the mechanism was confirmed

Basically we’ve been struggling to get to inbox zero ever since. Of those 48 years, I’ve been using mail 30 years almost to the day. The RFC talks about sending messages directly to a printer, as well as to a computer to store. In the early days I would print messages that were sent to me (also so you could delete them from computer storage and especially from the shared mailbox I had on a system), and kept a binder with them. When that binder was full, and I realised what it would mean going forward, I stopped printing mail. It bemuses me how regularly corporate e-mail signatures still ask me to reconsider before printing an e-mail. Over a quarter century later!

I know about this and other RFCs (Request For Comments) because Darius Kazemi has a wonderful project this year, where he reads one RFC per day in chronological order and writes about it. It is an early internet archeology project slowly unfolding in my feed reader day by day, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the very first RFC on April 7th 1969. In these RFCs the early protocols are discussed and born that formed the internet. It is fascinating how some of the names of people coming up still are remembered, and others aren’t. And it has paths that lead to nowhere. It makes clear how so much of human achievement is iterative and incremental steps in the dark with people doing what seems plausible from their current standpoint.

Darius read this particular RFC on October 5th, and I wrote this posting October 8th, setting it to publish today November 17th at its 48th anniversary, with the same timestamp as the original from 1971.

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  • Sandip Bhattacharya ☮️
  • Erik Jonker

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